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Tag: Spelling

Can’t you spell or WOT!

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The following caught my eye and was posted by the following gentleman on The Chartered Institute of Taxation Website – John Jeffrey-Cook FTII, FCA, FCIS, ATT gives training courses on the use of English

Best use of English spelling

Best practice requires that our letters and reports are not only technically sound but are correctly spelt.  Even with a spelling checker, spelling can still be a problem as the following verse demonstrates:

Spellbound

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I’ve run this poem threw it.
I’m shore your pleased too no
Its letter perfect inn its weigh:
My checker tolled me sew.

I am indebted to the anonymous author.

Incidentally, how many errors can you spot? For the number, see below.

Common confusions

In my experience, the following words are commonly confused:

  • Complementary means making complete, while a gratis ticket is complimentary.
  • A council runs a local authority but it may receive counsel (advice) from a counsel (barrister).
  • A dependent relative has an e but a dependant has an a.
  • To forgo is to go without; but items which have gone before are foregoing.
  • A  foreword appears at the start of a book, but you have to go forward to find out more.
  • It’s is short for it is, but its, like yours, hers and ours, has no apostrophe.
  • The judgement or opinion of most people has an e but the judgment of a judge does not.
  • Lead is a soft metal but the past tense of the verb to lead is led.
  • Lloyds is the bank but Lloyd’s is the insurance organisation.
  • Principles are like scruples but an agent’s principal is a pal; -pal is also used in the adjective as in the principal boy in pantomime and the principal (or main) reason.
  • Programme always ends with -mme (in Britain) but a computer program does not.
  • A review is an inspection, but a revue is a theatrical selection.
  • A stationer sells stationery, but a parked car is stationary.

Practise or practice

Tax practitioners of all people should know the difference between practise and practice. If you can distinguish between advise and advice you simply follow the same rules and skip the next sentence. If you cannot, the c is used in the noun (the advice, a piece of advice) but s is used in the verb and its derivations: to advise, advising, be advised, an adviser (one who advises): advisor is an American spelling and should be confined to the far side of the Atlantic, although advisory is correct.

Thus a practitioner practises a profession, but may discontinue the practice. I have a car licence but a licenser licenses a licensee who is then licensed, but unfortunately we all too often see a misspelt licenced (ugh!) restaurant.

One word or two?

Words which are often incorrectly run together include

  • all right (unlike almost and already),
  • in so far (unlike inasmuch), and
  • it may be (unlike maybe = perhaps).

Conversely, words which should appear as a single word include cannot, subsection and taxpayer.

The luxury of choice

Before 1750 spelling was a matter of taste: Shakespeare spelt his name in different ways and e was often added to words to fill up a line of type. However, most English words have a single recognised spelling in Britain since printers, writers and scholars united to obtain consistency after Dr Johnson’s great Dictionary appeared in 1755. They made decisions according to their beliefs as to the origin of each word, whether from Greek or Latin, and in only a minority of cases has later scholarship shown their decisions to be wrong.

The main area where the authorities differ as to spelling relates to whether verbs like organise and nouns like organisation should be spelt with an s or a z. The Oxford English Dictionary prefers the -ize spelling for many words, but there are some such as advertise, advise, comprise, despise, exercise and surmise which are never spelt with a z in Britain and in other cases s is permissible. This being so, the simplest course which is advocated by Sir Ernest Gowers in The Complete Plain Words is to use an s in all cases, for that will never be wrong, whereas z sometimes will be.

Common problems

Words that often give difficulty, on which a spelling checker can indeed help, include accommodation, consensus, correspondent, definite, dilapidations, persuade but pursue, preceding but proceeding, separate and supersede.

Some words ends with -able, such as indispensable, intractable whereas others end with -ible, such as accessible, admissible, deductible, divisible, irresistible, reducible and reversible. Unfortunately there is no easy way to distinguish these. The adjective collectible, as in a collectible debt, has an i but a new American noun collectables has entered into British usage.

The word fit takes a second t and becomes fitted or fitting, but this does not apply when the accent is earlier in the word. Thus benefit becomes benefited, benefiting and similarly we have budgeted, budgeting, targeted and targeting.

Did you get it WRITE?

In Spellbound you should have found fourteen errors. No way? Go back and try again! Line by line there are 0 0 2 1 1 4 4 and 2.

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